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  • #16
    Let me add a couple of things from a the perspective of someone who is intimately involved with the hiring and promotional process of the fire department.
    I can assure you that upon gradudation you will be absolutely looked upon differently than your competition who does not have a degree.
    The reality is that the economy is dreadful and we are not hiring. This is due in part to the fact that guys are not retiring because of the uncertainty in the economy and also because the budgets are so bad. As you know, many of us are cutting engines or trucks.

    Here is an article that I wrote regarding education. I hope it helps you work through your decison.

    The Importance of Education
    On the surface it may seem that education is not important for a firefighter.
    This is very far from the truth for several reasons. First of all, firefighters have
    evolved from “put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” to being in charge of major
    incidents involving hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction, or
    determining paramedic level care on a gravely ill or injured patient. What do
    all of these incidents have in common? Each discipline requires knowledge
    of physics and chemistry, of course!

    Secondly, firefighters are required to write a report (which is also a legal
    document) that summarizes every emergency response. These reports are
    a direct reflection of the report writer. If a report is filled with grammatical
    and punctuation errors, the credibility of the writer is brought into question.
    Firefighters are often asked to testify in a court of law as to what occurred. A
    firefighter who authors a report riddled with errors will certainly lose credibility
    with the audience.

    Firefighters negotiate their salaries with the city, county or board. The more
    educated the firefighters are in the political process, the better they will fare
    at the bargaining table. This ultimately translates into better wages, benefits
    and working conditions.

    Is a Bachelor’s degree required prior to getting hired? The answer is no, or
    at least not in most places. Most departments require a high school diploma
    or a GED certificate. Why is there such a wide range of education levels for
    entry-level firefighters? It’s really quite simple. The person making the hiring
    decisions sets the tone as to the importance of education. If the fire chief
    values education, you can bet he or she will expect the entry-level firefighters
    to have a degree (or at least be actively working toward one) prior to getting
    hired. If, on the other hand, he or she is more mechanically inclined, education
    may not be a priority. These organizational priorities change as the fire chief
    retires, and the new fire chief will set his or her own priorities.
    I began taking my fire science courses shortly after having graduated from
    high school. I entered the fire science program at the local junior college, taking the
    six fire science and EMT prerequisite classes for the basic fire academy I
    completed the courses in two semesters and one summer session, then enterered ration
    the fire academy. Upon graduation from the fire academy and armed with 30
    units of fire science courses, I started picking away at my Associate of Science
    degree in fire science. I was fortunate enough to be hired at 20 years old by
    the Los Angeles City Fire Department as a single function paramedic. Eighteen
    months later, I was hired by Long Beach as a firefighter.

    I had great intentions of completing my Associate’s degree and ultimately
    my Bachelor’s degree. A promotion to firefighter/paramedic and ultimately to
    Captain, starting a business, becoming a husband, father and author has put
    my educational plans on hold. In short, the rigors of dealing with everyday
    life as a firefighter and the shifting schedule made it difficult to continue my
    education. Is this an excuse? No way. I firmly believe that anything can be
    accomplished once you set your mind to it.

    Is it possible to get your education after getting hired on a fire department?
    By all means, yes. At age 39, I went back to school. I earned my Bachelor’s
    degree while working as a Battalion Chief. I then earned my Masters degree while working as a Division Chief. If I can do this while working fulltime, and being a husband and father, so can you.

    In today’s day and age, the advent of the Internet makes it possible for
    a student to complete a course regardless of the time or location. There are
    numerous colleges which now offer fire science courses online. These are
    the perfect solution for a working person with a family who struggles to get
    into a structured class. The student does not have to worry about getting off
    work early, fighting traffic, paying for parking, or finding a babysitter for the
    kids. Online courses accommodate all schedules, since it does not matter
    what time of the day or night a student “logs in” to participate in the discussion
    centers. In my opinion, there is now no excuse for a person applying to fire
    departments not to have his or her education.
    In many areas of the country an Associate’s degree is the standard. If a
    candidate does not have one, the evaluator’s eyebrows are raised to question
    why he or she has not taken the time to earn one. In a few communities it is
    even required before taking the entry-level exam.

    Many new firefighters often have more advanced degrees. Although this
    depends on a myriad of different circumstances, it seems there is certainly a
    strong trend in this direction. Where do these more highly educated candidates come from? Are these the same fire science students found in the average fire science courses? No, commonly they are people who obtained a degree to enter the professional workforce as a teacher, computer specialist, stockbroker, or some other
    profession, but decided they were dissatisfied in their profession. In short,
    they decided on a career change.

    As a general rule these candidates are older than the typical applicant.
    This is substantiated by the fact that they spent four years in school earning
    their degree, followed immediately by several years in the workforce before
    deciding they missed their calling. These candidates have learned the value
    of hard work and determination. Unfortunately, their career choice was not
    satisfying for them. Oftentimes they have learned that money is not the most
    important thing after all. They have discovered that although firefighters do
    not make a great deal of money (enough to be comfortable), a firefighter’s job
    satisfaction rating is very high.

    Once these candidates “round out” their education with fire science
    courses and a fire academy, a department quickly snaps them up. These
    candidates fit the profile perfectly of the older candidate who loves his or
    her job and excels in the fire service. Fire departments across the country
    have keyed into these candidates and hire them at their first opportunity.
    A candidate who has worked in another profession usually makes a strong
    firefighter, as he or she knows what it’s like to work in a job in which there
    is minimal job satisfaction. Being a firefighter is a far cry from being trapped
    behind a desk in a cubicle.
    A firefighter with experience as a drafter, computer technician or some other
    technical field brings a great new dimension to the fire service. Where once
    firefighters struggled with computers or prefire plans, the modern firefighter
    is able to create a computer generated mock up of a building. These plans
    include locations of hazardous materials, storage of company records as
    well as locations of fire department standpipe and sprinkler connections. The
    value that these drawings bring to an incident commander huddled around
    the command post is immeasurable. All of this because the fire chief elected
    to hire a firefighter with some computer experience.
    Most firefighter candidates should aspire to complete at least an Associate’s
    degree. Standard prerequisites such as math, English and writing are naturally
    required. Although it varies from college to college, the required courses usually
    include Introduction to Fire Science, Physics and Chemistry for Firefighters,
    Firefighter Safety, Fire Prevention, Building Construction, Fire Sprinkler
    Extinguishing Systems, Physical Fitness for Firefighters and Emergency
    Medical Technician (EMT).

    Introduction to Fire Science teaches the student the basics of how the fire
    service works. It covers the difference between a fire engine and a fire truck,
    a captain and a chief. The course usually involves a class project in which
    the student is required to knock on the door of a fire station and research a
    firefighter’s job description, regular duties and responsibilities throughout the
    course of his or her shift, the pay and benefit schedule.

    Upon completion of the project, the student knows exactly what a firefighter
    does in the course of his or her shift and how he or she is compensated. This
    course is the basic framework that will give a student the confidence to walk
    into a fire station anywhere around the country and understand the basic
    terminology and operations that all fire departments follow.

    Physics and Chemistry (sometimes called “fire chemistry”) breaks
    down the chemical processes of how a fire starts, and most importantly,
    how it can be extinguished. The course covers the different classifications
    of fire and the basics of fire behavior. It covers the law of heat transfer
    and clearly delineates how a fire spreads throughout a structure or a
    forest. The more a firefighter understands the way a fire spreads, the
    better he or she will be able to combat and ultimately extinguish it. The
    course teaches the student to interpret and understand the labels present
    on all fire extinguishers.
    Physics and Chemistry also provides a basic foundation for dealing with
    hazardous materials. Since there are so many toxic chemicals present in smoke
    (the byproduct of combustion), it is essential that a firefighter understands how
    it affects him or her. Firefighters are usually the initial response agency for
    hazardous materials incidents. This means that a firefighter must be trained
    to recognize the dangers and what needs to be done to minimize the adverse
    effects on the citizens of a community, their property and the environment.

    Firefighter safety is a critical part of our profession. Statistics show that there
    is a strong probability that during the course of a career, a firefighter is going to miss
    time from his or her work due to a job-related injury. Being a firefighter is undisputedly
    one of the most hazardous occupations in the country. The Firefighter Safety course will teach students the importance of wearing safety equipment. It will examine firefighter death and injury investigations and seek to identify how each incident could have ended positively, instead of in tragedy.

    Fire Prevention is also an important part of a firefighter’s assignment. After
    all, most mission statements have a reference to preventing fires before they
    occur. A firefighter must be able to walk into a place of business and identify
    things that are in violation of the Uniform Fire Code. Our intent is not to write
    citations, but rather to get the business owner to rectify the potential fire
    causing violation. As a firefighter our salaries are paid by thriving businesses
    in the community. Our objective is to make the businesses “fire safe” so they
    can continue to employ the citizens of our community and contribute to the tax
    base. The Fire Prevention course will teach the aspiring firefighter the basics
    of the fire code as well as many of the most common violations encountered
    by firefighters. In addition, it teaches the student how and why firefighters
    have the authority to enter a business, make recommendations and ultimately
    mandate that a business comply with the established fire codes.

    Building Construction is one of the most important classes a firefighter
    candidate will take. It is critical that a firefighter understand the basics of
    how buildings are put together, as many are killed or injured when buildings
    unexpectedly fall when subjected to fire. Students should be able to name all
    of the structural members used in the construction of a house or apartment
    building, as well as how large warehouses are constructed.

    Paul Lepore
    Division Chief
    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief


    • #17
      Go to college


      If your parents have saved and sacrificed so you can get a bachelor degree, I recommend that you take full advantage of this life-enhancing opportunity.

      EKU is an excellent school. The four, or five, year investment at the university will pay off better than the benefit you get by starting your firefighting career now.

      (Yeah, I sound like a parent)

      My perspective is as a retired Fire Captain II/ paramedic from a large urban county fire department and as a university professor.

      I understand your desire to start firefighting as soon as possible. I was living in a fire station while flunking out of engineering school. Took 13 years to get my bachelor's degree.

      Going to university as an 18 year old is the best investment of your time and interest.

      1) It is a unique experience that will not be duplicated when you are on the job and working to complete the degree. The journey is valuable.

      2) You have the least amount of distractions. No pregnant girlfriend, mortgage, part-time job or studying for a promotional exam.

      Many fire departments are not hiring or doing very restricted hiring for the next few years.

      Reality check, many large departments that used to run 3-8 recruit schools a year ran NO schools in the last 18 months.

      In fact, HUNDREDS of incumbent career firefighters lost their job in the past two years.

      This recession is different than the 1970s:
      Originally posted by FossilMedic on Firegeezer.com
      New York City laid off more than 40,000 employees at the start of Fiscal Year 1976. This included 1,600 FDNY firefighters. While the city hired back 700 firefighters within three days, 900 others lost their permanent firefighter jobs.

      It would take two years before the city could rehire all the laid off firefighters who reapplied to FDNY.

      There are fundamental changes in fire company staffing and deployment that will last long after the recession evaporates in the next FOUR years.

      By time you complete the EKU degree, the job situation should be better.

      The value of a paramedic credential is declining.

      For the past decade I have told wanna-be career firefighters to get their paramedic credentials. In some departments, a white male with a paramedic card would be selected over a diversity candidate without a paramedic card.

      Not anymore

      The expense of maintaining paramedic certification, and the surprising impact of patient outcome studies, is impacting 2010 and later hiring decisions.

      Departments that REQUIRED paramedic credentials for new firefighters have relaxed or eliminated that requirement. Like Baltimore City.

      Patient outcome data shows a high value of quick response of a defibrillator-equipped first responder vehicle delivering fast uninterrupted chest compressions. We no longer need to staff as many paramedic ambulances to maintain an 8 minute response time. Like Kansas City, where the fire department took over the MAST ambulance service May 2010.

      The recession is reducing the number of paramedic-staffed ambulances, even after a multiple year high-profile effort to improve 9-1-1 service. Like Los Angeles City.

      Large municipalities are meeting with for-profit national 9-1-1 ambulance providers to consider replacing the fire-staffed ambulances with AMR or Rural-Metro units. Need far fewer paramedic/firefighters if we are just providing first responder service.

      Most wanna-be career firefighters get their paramedic credential to get on the job, then spend years whining and seeing how soon they can get off the "box." What a profound waste of your time.

      It takes 18 months of pretty intense study to be a paramedic. If out-of-hospital patient care is NOT one of your burning desires, then get that EKU Fire Safety Admin degree.

      What about my Firefighter I training?

      I appreciate that a West Coast (Capt Bob) model is that candidates apply for work WITH these credentials. East of the Rockies, large departments will hire you and THEN PAY you to obtain your firefighter and emt training in their fire academy.

      In fact, most big city departments are not interested in your volunteer experience and training. It does not provide preferential consideration.

      Existing credentials and experience are a consideration in smaller and growing departments where they do not have the resources to run a recruit school. They are looking for work-ready candidates.

      During your second and third year at EKU, research where you want to live and which department you want to work for. Visit these departments during your summer break. Visit a bunch of fire stations, get an application package, prepare for the CPAT if needed.

      Determine what the requirements are and, if that is your dream location, commit to meeting those requirements.

      Good luck with your adventure!

      Mike Ward

      Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
      The George Washington University

      author, Fire Officer: Principles and Practice

      FossilMedic on Firegeezer.com.
      Last edited by MikeWard; 09-05-2010, 11:59 PM. Reason: edits, typos, obsessive-compulsive tweaks


      • #18
        Congratulations on the new book. STRONG WORK!!!!
        Paul Lepore
        Battalion Chief


        • #19
          Originally posted by BCLepore View Post
          Congratulations on the new book. STRONG WORK!!!!
          Thanks, the second edition is MUCH better.

          Was cringing when reading the first chapters I submitted eight years ago!



          • #20
            I know exactly what you mean. The revised edition of our work is much bettter that the original.
            Paul Lepore
            Battalion Chief


            • #21
              Originally posted by pqs359 View Post
              So I decided to go to EKU for a 4 year Fire safety Admin degree. I really debated doing the degree or just going through the dept. and getting my fire 1, fire 2, ect... so in this debate i am still comparing with friends who went the other route and went with the department. I will be joining the AFST and they do regular trainings but i still dont really know. any advice that anyone ha will help me out.

              My main questions are:

              -what do i come out with after 4 years? i know i will have a degree with my name on it, but what does that mean in the fire field.

              -Because of the degree how do I have to work out my Firefighter 1, ect...? I dont really understand the certification, will i be able to take a test or will i have more classes to go through?

              -lastly, Any suggestions for me as i go through this? What should i be doing to try an get myself ready to go once i get out of school. I.E. summers, weekend, nights, any ideas really.

              Thanks for your time and any advice that you may have
              Just to let you know, i attend EKU, so if you need something just PM me. The real reason I am posting is to let you know (if you dont know already)that Richmond Fire offers a Co-Op/Internship. Look for the posting around April as there are going to be quite a few positions to fill for next year. If you want more information just ask. I think this would be a great opportunity for you considering that your a freshmen, once you get the Co-Op position you can keep the Co-op till you graduate if you so desired.


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